Sunday, June 15, 2014

Opa to Summer with Greek Kale Pasta Salad

I started this blog back in the day to encourage myself to cook more and to start really testing and tracking my own recipes so I could document my favorite meals and come back to them again and again. Sharing with the world was really secondary, but it's been so great to hear from friends in real life that they read and try what I cook here, and to see some of my more popular tweaks on dishes get shared on Pinterest hundreds of times by complete strangers. And what's even better is it keeps me honest. So I've heard plenty of "what happened to your blog?" and "when are you going to post again?" and here I am, back. So where have I been?

I'm happy to announce that after 10 years and two cats together, my husband and I will be welcoming our first child at the end of September. First trimester and the beginning of the second came with intense nausea that made it impossible to cook - I couldn't even look at a vegetable without gagging and the smell of certain foods cooking would turn my stomach in knots. That on top of my sudden need to sleep 10-12 hours a night put my cooking on a serious hiatus.

Then around weeks 12-14 I started to turn a corner and could eat real foods again. Salads! Seafood! Small plates! Oh my! And while I have been feeling fantastic since pulling through a rough first trimester, the hardest curveball of all was still coming our way. At the 20 week ultrasound, where we found out we are having a boy, we unfortunately also got the news that our son will be born with a congenital heart defect called tetralogy of Fallot. He'll face multiple surgeries in his first months of life, but we're told that after a full repair of his heart we'll have a healthy, rambunctious baby. We're working with a great team of medical professionals and are so thankful to be surrounded by a fantastic and supportive network of family and friends to help us through this bump in the road. 

Now that we've made it through the initial diagnosis, we're trying to get back to a sense of normalcy and continue preparing for the birth of our first child like normal parents - buying onesies, looking a paint samples, and fawning over baby toys. And I'm happily back to cooking and entertaining friends in our new apartment. With that, I'm here bringing you a perfect summer pasta salad with a Greek twist and some added kale full of healthy fats and folic acid and everything that's good for expecting moms and non-pregnant humans alike.

You'll need:
  • 3 cups dry whole wheat penne (aka 10 oz dry pasta)
  • 8 cups fresh kale, stems removed
  • Juice 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup Kalamata olives
  • 1/3 cup light feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup peperoncini peppers, whole or diced, your call

For the Greek Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbs red wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbs prepared brown mustard
  • 1/2 tsp agave nectar
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or 2 tbs fresh oregano
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta as you normally would. Steam the kale - I add about 1/4 cup of water in a large microwave safe bowl and microwave for 2 minutes, then strain out excess water. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon over the kale, massage gently for a few seconds, and set aside.

While the pasta cooks, make the vinaigrette. See ingredient list above, whisk together and set aside.

Let the pasta cool then mix together with kale, cherry tomatoes, olives, peperoncini, and feta cheese. Gradually pour the vinaigrette over the pasta mixture and toss until evenly coated. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least a half an hour before serving.

This is a perfect quick summer dish - no heating up the oven and heating up a hot house. It's also great to make a big batch of salad on Sunday for cool, crisp, healthy lunches all week.

The recipe above makes at least 4 larger servings at just 550 calories each.